NBA Depth Chart 2013-2014

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Here are the probable starters and backups for all 30 teams. This is provided to help you with draft prep, going deep enough for any 20-team league.

Kevin DurantWe list the ten players on each team expected to receive the most minutes. It’s a work in progress, to be updated often throughout the season as injuries occur and roles change.

Bernucca: NBA Injury Update: Some stars won’t be ready for season’s start

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When training camps open later this month, a handful of teams will be at less than full strength. And some of them may be that way for a while.

The Los Angeles Lakers, a legitimate title contender, will be without the biggest prize of the offseason. The Chicago Bulls, who have the NBA’s best record over the last two seasons, will be without their best player.

The New York Knicks, who claim to be contenders, will be without two of their three shooting guards. The Golden State Warriors, who are talking about crashing the postseason party, could be without their two best players.

And the Los Angeles Clippers, a darkhorse to upstage the rival Lakers and win the Western Conference, could be without their three best players when camp opens.

Each of these teams will be waiting for a key player to return from an injury suffered last season or during the offseason. Some will be waiting until the preseason. Others will be waiting until early in the regular season. And the Bulls and Clippers likely will be waiting until 2013.

Even the Miami Heat had their offseason injury issues. Unfortunately for the rest of the NBA, the defending champions should be at or near full strength when training camp begins.

Some teams have all the luck. And some don’t. Here’s the breakdown.

DERRICK ROSE: The 2011 NBA MVP tore his ACL in Chicago’s postseason opener vs. Philadelphia and did not have surgery until mid-May, allowing the swelling to reduce. The length of recovery from ACL surgery can be as short as six months (Wes Welker), which would have Rose back before Christmas. It can also be as long as 12 months (the long-range period given by Dr. Brian Cole, who performed the surgery), which would mean Rose misses the entire season.

Rose has said his recovery is ahead of schedule. However, his timetable likely will be determined by Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, who has to pay Rose $95 million over the next five years and told a Chicago radio station, “Until the doctors say he’s 100 percent and they put their reputations on the line, he’s not coming back.” PROJECTION: Sometime after the All-Star break. That could be an issue for the Bulls, because their top scorer other than Rose is Luol Deng, who chose not to have surgery on the torn ligament in his left wrist.

DWIGHT HOWARD: Everybody’s favorite diva had missed seven games in seven years before last season ended prematurely with a back injury that required surgery in April and cost him a spot on Team USA. The procedure repaired a torn herniated disk and removed disk fragments and was not categorized as major surgery. The surgeon said Howard should be able to return to full contact in four months, which seemed long for a lumbar discectomy. So why will he be unavailable for the start of training camp and possibly miss the start of the season?

Howard has both said he will be ready for the start of the season and may not be ready for the start of the season, which begins in late October. Meanwhile, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has refused to establish a timeline for Howard. Remember, Howard is a free agent next summer and could react unfavorably toward a franchise that pressures him to return. It also behooves the Lakers for Howard to be healthy for the start of the playoffs rather than the regular season. PROJECTION: Howard plays on Opening Night – after skipping training camp and preseason.

BLAKE GRIFFIN: The All-Star forward hurt his left knee during training with Team USA in July, right after he had signed a five-year, $95 million extension with the Clippers. Protecting their investment, Griffin was pulled out of the Olympics and underwent arthroscopic surgery.

The scope was in the same knee in which Griffin suffered a fractured patella that cost him the entire 2009-10 season. Although the injuries are in the same joint and create some concern about Griffin’s long-term durability, they are said to be unrelated. Griffin has been playing pickup ball since last month. PROJECTION: Griffin will be ready for the start of training camp, where he certainly will be closely monitored.

CHRIS PAUL: The All-Star point guard suffered a torn ligament in is right thumb during the Olympics but played through it, helping Team USA beat Spain with a huge fourth quarter in the gold medal game. Paul had surgery on Aug. 21 and could need up to eight weeks of recovery time, which would mean he misses training camp and almost all of the preseason.

Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro has said Paul will be back for the start of the season. He also has said his most indispensable player will be return during training camp. That is as much as a three-week window, a pretty big difference. However, no one is saying Paul will miss any games that count. PROJECTION: Paul has an unreal competitive streak that will have him back at the outset of training camp. The Clippers will rest him during the preseason, and he will play on Opening Night.

CHAUNCEY BILLUPS: Paul’s return will afford Billups the opportunity not to rush back from a torn left Achilles tendon suffered last February. The injury could have been a career-ender for Billups, who turns 36 later this month. But he has worked hard through his rehabilitation and has said he is ahead of schedule.

However, Billups was expected to need at least eight months for the tendon to heal following surgery, which puts his earliest possible return in November. If Paul is healthy, the Clippers can make due with the improving Eric Bledsoe as their backup point guard. Upon his return, Billups is expected to play many of his minutes at shooting guard. PROJECTION: Givn his age and LA’s backcourt depth, expect Billups to return in December, sometime before Christmas. That would be a full 10 months after the injury.

RICKY RUBIO: The Timberwolves were in the Western Conference playoff race until their sensational rookie point guard suffered a torn ACL on March 9. Minnesota was 21-19 before Rubio’s injury but collapsed without him, losing 21 of its last 26 games. Last week, Rubio said he believes he could be back on the court before the end of 2012.

However, Rubio has yet to start running, let alone restoring his conditioning and attempting sharp cutting. The Wolves will start the season without him and use Luke Ridnour and J.J. Barea as their point guards. The biggest difference from last season is that Ridnour and Barea should not have to also be used as shooting guards after the offseason acquisitions of Brandon Roy and Alexey Shved. PROJECTION: Rubio should be back in December – a nine-month recovery – but may have to rely more heavily on his outstanding court vision before his quickness fully returns.

STEPHEN CURRY: Recurring right ankle injuries forced Curry to miss 40 games last season and has cast a shadow over his potential contract extension. The sweet-shooting combo guard appears to be one of the franchise’s cornerstones and has had preliminary discussions with the Warriors, who are adopting a wait-and-see attitude in advance of the Oct. 31 deadline.

Curry had ankle surgery in April and has moved past his rehabilitation, going full speed for spurts of 10-15 minutes during workouts before backing off as a precaution. He has said he will be fully recovered by the start of the season but gave no indication of his readiness for training camp. PROJECTION: Barring a setback, Curry will start Opening Night. The offseason acquisition of Jarrett Jack will allow Golden State to protect Curry through training camp and preseason.

ANDREW BOGUT: Golden State’s second cornerstone has yet to play for the Warriors, already declared out for the season when he was acquired at the trading deadline. He had surgery on his left ankle in late April to remove bone spurs and loose bodies. When healthy, he is a top-five center. But he has missed 130 games over the last four seasons.

As of late August, Bogut had yet to run at full speed on a court. He has said he will not push himself to be ready for the start of training camp but rather is targeting the season opener for his return and Warriors debut. He could possibly play in some preseason games but not at the expense of a full recovery. PROJECTION: Like Curry, Bogut will start Opening Night. There are some who believe Golden State can make the playoffs, but not without full, productive seasons from Curry and Bogut.

BROOK LOPEZ: The Nets center never missed a game in his first three seasons but played just five last season due to two separate injuries – including a stress fracture – in his right foot. Lopez spent the offseason recovering from the injuries and wondering whether he would be traded to Orlando for Howard.

When that deal fell through, Lopez signed a four-year, $60 million deal with the Nets. That’s a lot of iron for a 7-footer who doesn’t rebound and is coming off a serious injury, but Lopez should be fully healthy by the start of training camp. PROJECTION: Alongside Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams in an awesome starting lineup in the season opener.

AVERY BRADLEY: It’s hard to believe that a player with 536 career points is on this list, but Bradley ended last season as Boston’s starting shooting guard, having supplanted Ray Allen with his dogged defense. Unfortunately, his season ended prematurely due to separations of both shoulders that required separate surgeries.

The required extensive rehab means Bradley will miss all of training camp, the preseason and the first month of the season. VP Danny Ainge even intimated that Bradley could miss two months,a dn coach Doc Rivers said that Bradley’s recovery won’t be rushed. The offseason acquisitions of Courtney Lee and Jason Terry will let Bradley take his time. PROJECTION: Sometime in December. Keep in mind that his injuries prevent Bradley from working on dribbling and shooting.

IMAN SHUMPERT: One of last season’s better rookies, Shumpert showed flashes that he can be the shooting guard for the Knicks for years to come. However, he suffered a torn ACL in the playoffs, and for the second time in as many seasons will not have a true training camp.

Shumpert reportedly has been taking his rehab very seriously but as of last month still had not begun basketball workouts. The Knicks knew he would be sidelined for some time and addressed his anticipated absence with their offseason moves. PROJECTION: Sometime in January. Until his return, J.R. Smith and Ronnie Brewer will hold down the position, but …

RONNIE BREWER: Signed late in the offseason, Brewer tore the meniscus in his left knee in August and underwent arthroscopic surgery last week. He is expected to be sidelined six weeks and maintains that he will be ready for the season opener, although likely without conditioning and rhythm. PROJECTION: Active for the opener but fully ready sometime in mid-November. Smith and Jason Kidd – who played plenty of 2-guard in Dallas – will fill in.

KYRIE IRVING: The face of Cleveland’s franchise – now and for the short-term future – suffered a freak injury in the offseason when he broke a bone in his right hand hitting a wall during a workout vs. Team USA in July. But he has already resumed playing and will be ready for the start of training camp. PROJECTION: Starting on Opening Night.

DWYANE WADE: The All-Star guard of the defending champion Heat has a new injury – writer’s cramp in his right shoulder, brought on by autographing thousands of copies of his book on his current three-week tour. However, he is fully recovered from offseason knee surgery that slowed him at times in the postseason and forced him to tap out of the Olympics.

Wade said he will be ready for the start of Miami’s training camp in late September. Now on thw wrong side of 30, he should see limited action throughout the preseason. PROJECTION: Starting vs. Boston on Opening Night.

RAY ALLEN: The all-time leader in 3-pointers struggled on both ends of the floor and lost his starting spot in the postseason due to bone spurs in his right ankle that required surgery in June. In the offseason, he left Boston – presumably because the Celtics tried to trade him at the deadline – and took less money to join Miami.

A month ago, Allen said he was at 75 percent and expected to be 100 percent healthy for the start of training camp. His well-documented work ethic has illustrated that there is no reason not to believe him. PROJECTION: Subbing in for Wade about seven minutes into the season opener to fire daggers at his former team.

Chris Bernucca is a regular contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His columns appear Wednesday and Sunday during the season. You can follow him on Twitter.

Who exactly is Rich Paul, LeBron’s new agent

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James announced his change of agents with a hashtag announcement on Twitter — #THETAKEOVER.

Which leads to two questions:

_ Is this Step One Before “The Decision” Part II?

_ Who exactly is Rich Paul, who becomes LeBron’s third NBA agent, replacing Leon Rose, who replaced Aaron Goodwin.

Early this morning, word began to spread that the reigning MVP, Finals MVP and Olympic gold medalist would be joining Klutch Sports, a newly formed agency by his childhood friend, Paul.

The face of the league, James has seen his popularity and likability fluctuate greatly over the last two years with his decision to leave Cleveland and join the Miami Heat. While his decision did lead to a title, many around James say that he never anticipated the level of vitriol directed at him and was noticeably shaken by being among the most despised players in the NBA when he took his talents to South Beach. (Our man Sheridan predicted it on his May 14, 2010, back when he was at ESPN.com).

For his part, Paul has largely been above the fray during James’ trials and tribulations over the past two years.

A friend of James since he was at St. Vincent-St. Mary’s High School in Akron, Paul is one of the R’s in LRMR, James’ management and marketing group.

While others around James opted to be reliant on him for income and opportunities, Paul chose a different path.

Paul came from humble beginnings at Cleveland Benedictine, where he was a standout basketball player and played AAU locally. Several years older than James, Paul often has been a big brother to The King, giving him the most honest and thoughtful advice in his circle.

It was Paul who urged James to not go through with “The Decision” out of concern for the damage James might do to his brand and reputation.  When Maverick Carter staged a coup to consolidate power in James’ decision-making circle, Paul left to join CAA and make his own path.  While a debate can be held about the relative challenges of recruiting and representing players with CAA and LeBron James behind you, it became clear that Paul had a knack for player representation.

While many agents prefer to be flashy, Paul plays it more low-key.

In an industry that prefers to keep people at arm’s length, Paul is one of the most inclusive people you will meet. It is not uncommon after Cavaliers games – where Paul is most frequently seen – for Paul to round up a group to join him for dinner afterward in Cleveland’s trendy warehouse district. Unlike many people in James’ circle that find it difficult to be punctual, Paul is the exception, arriving on time or early to most meetings and events and often in suits or business clothes as opposed to sweats.

On the night of “The Decision,” when most of James’ circle and handlers were busy with the production side and other image-related concerns, it was Paul who contacted the Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert to inform them that James would be leaving for the Heat.

Sources in Cleveland say that Paul always was and has been the most respected member of James’ circle, and that his conduct that night further endeared him to Gilbert and the Cavs. While Gilbert’s late night e-mail rant was vindictive, he never cut off Paul – and that was evidenced when the Cavs selected Tristan Thompson with the fourth pick in the 2011 draft over Jonas Valanciunas. Interestingly, Valanciunas is repped by Rose, while Thompson was repped by Paul.

During the 2012 draft, much speculation centered on the Cavs targeting Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, another Paul client.

Since joining CAA, Paul has been its lead recruiter and a promising agent who has handled Thompson, Kidd-Gilchrist and Eric Bledsoe, among others.  While most of the agents at CAA are older, it is Paul who has the uncanny ability to relate to college kids and steer them toward his agency.

Paul also is very tight with Chris Paul, a free agent next summer. Ask most NBA executives and their circles about Paul, and it is nearly unanimous with words of praise for him as a savvy businessman and heady agent who keeps positive relationships with everyone from owners to security personnel.

Another thing commonly said about Paul is how low of a profile he keeps. Paul often sits near center court  but rarely is noticed and never makes obscene gestures or animated statements towards opposing teams or players, unlike other members of James’ circle.

While Paul’s new venture is just beginning, there is no doubt he is well on his way to building a successful stable.  Moreover, with the summer of 2014 looming large for many NBA teams, – and considering James,  with an ETO in 2014 and an opt-out in 2015, could headline an outstanding free agent class – Paul will be in great position to get a max long-term deal for his friend.

While James’ decision is two years old, Paul has urged many in Cleveland and around the NBA not to rule out a return to the Cavaliers for LeBron.

Paul, who lives in the Cleveland suburbs, has long said that a reunion can happen.

While many in Cleveland still resent the very idea of a return of The King to northeastern Ohio, it is not completely out of the question.

Especially now, after #THETAKEOVER.

Joe Kotoch is the editor of ProBasketballDraft.com and a frequent contributor to SheridanHoops.com. His Mock Draft on the day of the 2012 draft was more accurate than those of anyone in the mainstream media.

Fantasy Spin: September 11, 2012

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Yesterday we talked about context — especially keeper leagues vs. redraft leagues — being a significant part of any player’s fantasy value. We didn’t even mention custom scoring. There are leagues where missed free throws don’t matter, making Dwight Howard a must-own instead of a category-killer. Turnovers are also not counted everywhere; I’m in more than one league where A/T (assist/turnover ratio) is used instead. Adjust the order of any or all of these names to better reflect your league’s settings.

Tomorrow will be the unveiling of our Depth Chart, the 300 players we expect to receive the most minutes. Today let’s discuss players who at first glance, did absolutely nothing a year ago.

The Zeros

In the draft room, with the clock ticking, your opponents might search the available names by sorting on last year’s stats. Don’t make that mistake. In fact, you should be prepared to draft a few players who didn’t play a single NBA minute in 2011-2012.

You’ll probably have to “pay retail” — that is, select them early — to get the Can’t Miss trio. Those listed in the Middle Rounds may fall until you think they make sense, and my Interesting Possibilities are guys worth considering as last-round sleepers in 12-team leagues, especially if the alternatives are uninspiring. Finally, we look at candidates for your roster in deeper leagues.

This doesn’t include only Hero Zeros, those talented young men fresh in our minds from the NCAA tournament last March. We have the Euro Zeros, some of whom may not be completely familiar to North American fans, and even a few Zombie Zeros, attempting to resurrect their careers after serious injuries.

Can’t Miss

Three names are in this top tier, though Anthony Davis is in a class by himself. His experience on the U.S. Olympic team this summer was a crash course in becoming a superstar. You still don’t want to select him too early in a redraft league, but he’s a deserving #1 pick in the majority of keeper leagues. In many formats, I would trade an established star for the right to draft him.

  • Anthony Davis has a 7′ 5″ wingspan and a passion to be the best defensive player in the league. He shot 62% from the floor and over 70% from the line for Kentucky while blocking a ridiculous 186 shots in 40 games.
  • Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was the Unibrow’s teammate on a national championship squad, the #2 overall selection in the draft, and is expected to start every game. However, he now plays for the NBA’s worst team and may be worth more in a couple of years than right away.
  • Damian Lillard could be this year’s Kyrie Irving. Not that I expect him to wrest the RoY trophy away drom Davis, just that he’ll contribute all season. Another Wildcat (from Weber State, not UK) who averaged 24.5 PPG his junior year, he figures to pass more and shoot less in Portland.

Middle Rounds

A little further along in your draft, you can begin to consider this group of four more rookies — one from the 2011 draft — plus a wily Russian veteran who just led his underdog team to Olympic bronze.

  • Jonas Valanciunas has the size and pro experience to contribute immediately for a weak team. The Lithuanian may battle some foul trouble but will still play a lot all season.
  • Harrison Barnes might become a go-to guy in the second half, if not before. He just needs to outplay Brandon Rush and what’s left of Richard Jefferson for starter’s minutes.
  • Andrei Kirilenko is back from a year playing overseas and definitely worth owning in redraft leagues; I’m downgrading him slightly in keeper formats.
  • Bradley Beal scored 14.8 PPG in his lone college season but may come off the bench behind Jordan Crawford, so don’t reach too soon.
  • Dion Waiters is still being touted as a starter though he’s had conditioning issues and didn’t shine in the Summer League; a risk-reward pick for this year.

Interesting Possibilities

All of the above should be drafted in 12-team leagues, but here’s where it starts to be fun if you’re shopping for sleepers. I’m including two new Timberwolves, though the Euro Zero may not play quite as much if the Zombie Zero is healthy enough to return after more than a year away from the game.

  • Brandon Roy comes out of retirement as a potential bargain in any format if his knees hold up. Early reports are encouraging. Do you feel lucky?
  • Alexey Shved looked terrific in the Olympics alongside AK-47 and should be closely monitored in training camp. He can play either guard spot and Ricky Rubio won’t be ready until December.
  • Mirza Teletovic was the leading scorer in the Euroleague (21.7) and at 27, is in his prime. The 6’9″ Bosnian hit 43% of his 3-pointers; as a “stretch 4″ he may even cut into the minutes of starter Kris Humphries.
  • Donatas Montiejunas should share the C role in Houston at age 21; he’s a 7-footer with more skill and shooting range than Omer Asik. Not a BLK and REB kind of big man but he can hit threes.
  • Thomas Robinson is one frontcourt injury away from significant minutes and as a three-year standout at Kansas, may be more mature than many NBA freshmen.

16-Team Leagues

These guys are Names to Know if you play in shallower leagues and it won’t take much to vault them into a higher tier. Any of them could surprise with a slight change in their team’s circumstances. Remember that it’s still quite early in the preseason and these are guidelines, not guarantees.

  • Kendall Marshall is worth more in keeper leagues, though as the backup to Goran Dragic he has some value right away in certain formats.
  • Marquis Teague should be in the Bulls’ PG mix until Derrick Rose returns; another high draft pick from the great Kentucky team, he could pay early dividends.
  • Jeff Green is fully recovered from heart surgery, making him a key piece off the BOS bench. He can also start at either SF or PF if there’s an injury.
  • Royce White like all the young Rockets has an opportunity to impress in camp and earn a spot. He also must cope with an anxiety disorder that includes a fear of flying. All he did at Iowa State was lead the team in PTS, REB, BLK, AST and STL.
  • Jeremy Lamb will have a surge in value if (when?) Kevin Martin gets traded. An excellent scorer at Connecticut, he averaged 20 PTS in five Summer League games.
  • Terrence Jones is yet another Rockets youngster who could step up to claim a role right away. He played two years at Kentucky and tore up the Summer League.
  • John Jenkins is intriguing for 3PTM off the ATL bench and the Vanderbilt product might get his chance early in the season.
  • John Henson was very impressive in Las Vegas, averaging 18.3 PTS, and was a good shot-blocker at North Carolina. He should be part of the Bucks’ rotation soon.
  • Austin Rivers has an excellent pedigree but may not adjust to the NBA immediately. He’s more of a SG who the Hornets hope can become a PG. They(and his fantasy owners) will need patience.
  • Meyers Leonard figures to be be in the Blazers’ rotation but it may take a couple of years before he’s a fantasy asset at this level.
  • Terrence Ross is a favorite of Toronto coach Dwane Casey; decent pick in deep leagues could press DeMar DeRozan for playing time in the not-too-distant future.
  • Andre Drummond is another big man with a chance to play, but he just turned 19 and has to be considered a longer-term project.
  • Aaron Brooks returns from China as the backup PG for the Kings but has more experience than projected starter Isaiah Thomas. Brooks averaged 19.6 PTS and 5.3 AST in his last full NBA season.

20-Team Leagues

It’s always fun to have a late pick in a deep league turn out to be a pleasant surprise. Here are a few longshots who could pay dividends, and are worth watching as potential FA pickups in shallower leagues if I’ve underestimated their abilities or misread their situations. Apologies to some great players I’ve no doubt overlooked.

  • Joel Freeland excelled for Great Britain at the Olympics and our colleague A.J. Mitnick was impressed. The 25-year-old might earn a backup role in Portland.
  • Jared Sullinger is likely to play behind Brandon Bass, which leaves the Ohio State star one injury away from a big opportunity.
  • Tyler Zeller should see limited minutes all season behind Anderson Varejao, though he may not put up huge numbers at this level.
  • Andrew Nicholson has a chance to crack the Magic rotation; Canadian played four years of college ball and crashes the boards.
  • Evan Fournier has good size for a SG but I’m not expecting the Frenchman to play much this season; he’s only 19 and the Nuggets have talented veterans.
  • Doron Lamb was a fine shooter at Kentucky and would jump into fantasy relevance quickly if  anything happens to Monta Ellis.
  • Kim English could be pressed into action if any of the Pistons guards get hurt, improved his FG% dramatically in his fourth year at Missouri.
  • Darrell Arthur missed an entire year with an Achilles injury; deep sleeper if he is 100% recovered but may not be ready for training camp.
  • Kyle Singler played in Spain last year; don’t forget about this 2011 draftee and former Duke star in his belated NBA debut.
  • Perry Jones III would receive more minutes as a rookie on most other teams. The standout at Baylor will have to play a waiting game with the Thunder.
  • Jae Crowder lit up the Summer League but the Mavs are a veteran team so there may not be an immediate opening.
  • Miles Plumlee has a limited opportunity because of the Pacers’ depth; if Roy Hibbert ever goes down, the Duke product would benefit.
  • Kyle O’Quinn sure looked like a pro with 26 & 14 in a giant upset of Missouri and the Orlando big men are not exactly all-stars.
  • Draymond Green could be a value pick in very deep formats. He improved each year at Michigan State and it was a surprise he lasted until the second round of the draft.
  • Moe Harkless would be worth more once the Magic commit to a youth movement but for a while will probably be watching and learning.
  • Pablo Prigioni led the Euroleague in assists; 35-year-old Argentinian provides nice PG depth for Knicks if anything happens to Raymond Felton or Jason Kidd.
  • Quincy Acy is 4% owned in Yahoo leagues for some reason — he doesn’t figure to see much action this year unless the injury bug bites the Raptors hard.
  • Fab Melo won’t be NBA-ready as soon as Sullinger but he’s already the biggest Celtic and will learn a lot in practice from Kevin Garnett.

We’ve altered our schedule for the next few weeks. Your daily Spin will now appear between 11:00 a.m. and noon, ideal for lunch-break reading if anyone does that sort of thing at work. We’ll return to earlier posts when there are actual games to discuss. Follow me and the rest of the Sheridan Hoops fantasy team on Twitter @SheridanFantasy and you won’t miss a thing.

 

Perkins: Wade was stunned by Nash-to-Lakers

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MIAMI – From Dwyane Wade’s point of view, the Los Angeles’ Lakers second major acquisition of the offseason didn’t surprise him. Dwight Howard-to-LA was always on the backburner.

It was the first one — the acquisition of Steve Nash — that caught him off guard.

“They’re making a play for a championship,” Wade told SheridanHoops.com Saturday on his nationwide book-signing tour.

“It’s not a surprising move that Dwight Howard went over there. I was kinda surprised to see Steve Nash. That was the one that was surprising.”

Call it The Great Impending Collision. We all expect to see it in mid-June, correct?

Heat vs. Lakers in the NBA Finals.

L.A.’s Big Three (Kobe Bryant, Howard and Nash) vs. Miami’s Big Three (Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh). It’s on.

“They’re putting themselves in position to compete for a championship,” Wade said. “Same thing we did in 2010.”

Dwyane Wade’s sons — Zaire (l) and Zion — ham it up Saturday during their father’s book-signing stop in Miami.

As Wade talked, fans periodically cheered. There was the “Let’s Go Heat!” chant, the “D-Wade!” chant, and the “We Love Wade!” chant. The latter most accurately captured the spirit of the day.

James might be the most popular Miami Heat player, but Wade, despite that rough patch during the Indiana playoff series, remains the most beloved. Saturday served as yet another example.

Even before Wade was visible, several hundred Heat fans, young and old, broke out into an “M-V-P!” chant that briefly rattled the rafters at the Sports Authority sporting goods store at Dolphin Mall in southwest Miami.

“I’m a Lakers fan,” one youthful attendee was overheard saying, “but…”

The crowd, which numbered around 3,000, maybe more, was gathered to have Wade, the two-time NBA champion turned author, sign his book, “A Father First: How My Life Became Bigger Than Basketball.”

Most of the fans, who formed a line that snaked throughout the store and into the parking lot, were teenagers. That pleased Wade greatly.

“I like to see a lot of kids and a lot of youth out here because with my foundation we focus on literacy, we focus on reading, so if I can get the kids to pick up my book and read it then we’ve done something to get them back on the path we need to be on,” he said.

The book signing began at 3 p.m., but the first fans began lining up at 8 a.m.

And this was Saturday afternoon in football-crazed South Florida, at a time when the University of Miami football team was playing at 15th-ranked Kansas State.

It was a similar scene at a Miami bookstore on Sunday, when the Miami Dolphins, the bedrock of the South Florida sports scene, were playing their season opener at Houston.

And both of those scenes were a repeat of Thursday in Fort Lauderdale.

At all three locales, Wade was only scheduled to sign 800 books. Fans had to go online to get a voucher. Strict orders accompanied the voucher – no chit-chat, only one photo, Wade will only sign the book, keep it moving – but those rules failed miserably.

The same was true in New York, where the tour began. It will probably be true in Atlanta, today’s stop. And it’ll probably be true when the tour continues in his hometown of Chicago, goes on to Milwaukee and concludes in Los Angeles.

In South Florida, Wade happily chatted it up with fans, posed for multiple photos and signed more than books. That’s why they love him. It’s also why Wade, fully recovered from off-season knee surgery, is now fatigued in a different part of his body — writer’s cramp in the shoulder.

“The hand and wrist are good,” he said with a smile. “After a while your shoulder gets tired.

“But I appreciate the support from fans in Miami. In Fort Lauderdale (Friday night) going to the book signing there were 800 people who had books but there were way more people there. Just to get their support, it was great.”

As for the defending champion Heat, Wade is excited to start training camp on Sept. 29, especially with Miami’s new acquisitions of guard Ray Allen and forward Rashard Lewis. He said coach Erik Spoelstra feels the same way.

“I’m real happy with the team we have,” Wade said. “I felt it was a very good team we had last year, and we got better this summer…We have a lot of veteran guys and I think for a coach you would want to coach a team like this, so I think coach Spo is in a good position to coach a bunch of veteran guys who will still understand we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

As for the Heat-Lakers matchup in the Finals, Wade seemed happy the Lakers have formed their own Big Three. But he’s taking the wait-and-see approach.

“Nothing is guaranteed to any one of us,” he said. “There’s a lot of good teams in the league, but this will make it very competitive.”

Chris Perkins is a veteran Miami-based sports journalist who covers the Miami Heat for SheridanHoops.com. Follow him on Twitter.